A Christian ministry in the United States that offered to help gay people 'overcome' their sexuality through prayer has shut down after its leader offered an apology to the LGBT community and admitted that he himself had been attracted to men.
The decision to close down Exodus International - a group of 220 churches based in Florida - was announced on its website yesterday, following an extended apology from its president Alan Chambers for the 'hurt' caused to members of the LGBT community.
Within the apology, Mr Chambers, who is married to a woman, said he had "conveniently omitted [his] ongoing same-sex attractions" for several years and was sorry for the trauma that he had caused to other homosexual people.
The statement regarding the end of the ministry put the decision down to "a new generation of Christians looking for change".
Mr Chambers said: "For quite some time we've been imprisoned in a worldview that's neither honoring toward our fellow human beings, nor biblical.
“From a Judeo-Christian perspective, gay, straight or otherwise, we’re all prodigal sons and daughters."
According to its website, Exodus had been "educating and equipping the Body of Christ to address the issue of homosexuality, gay and lesbian people" through counseling and prayer since 1976. However, the group had been discredited by public bodies representing psychiatrists and psychologists.
Mr Chambers said in his apology: "Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents.
"I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse."
Gay rights activists have lauded the apology and move by Exodus. Sharon Groves of the Human Rights campaign told The Times that the move was "a welcome first step in honestly addressing the harm the organisation and its leaders have caused".
"Now we need them to take the next step of leadership and persuade all other religious-based institutions that they got it wrong," she said.
A separate ministry called Reduce Fear has been launched in Exodus' place.